By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
The first rule of Fight Club is: don’t let Mom find out about it.
It all started on a sunny afternoon when I cuddled my four sons before going to work.
The boys are getting old and sturdy now, but I still see them as plump babies grasping blindly for human warmth.
I listened to their tales. I inhaled the spring breezes caught in their hair, watched the light glance off the smooth sandy crescents joining their temples to their cheeks; followed the rise and fall of their sharp black lashes.
“Welp,” I finally said, “I’ve got to get a little work done.”
“Aww-ww,” pouted a twin. “But I’m hungry.”
The poor helpless dear, I thought to myself.
“I’ll fix you a snack when I’m done,” I said, and slipped into my home office for some last-minute writing, sighing gratefully over my four sweet cherubs.
The profession of writing swallows you whole into its churning sea of demands, and blocks out the linear reality that claims to have birthed all that language in the first place.
I got so absorbed in my work, I didn’t check on the boys for a while. When I backed away from the desk and stood myself up on solid ground, I realized they were shrieking.
Naturally, I assumed the house was under attack and the boys were crying for me with their final breaths. I rushed down the hallway, through the dining room and into the family room, only to discover…
Two boys were locked in full physical combat. Another boy dry-heaved in a corner as pink handprints took shape on his shirtless back. A fourth boy, scowling, counted off push-ups on the rug.
Their shirts lay scattered and flung on the furniture; one of the shirts rotated slowly on a ceiling fan blade. In denim jeans and red bandanas, the boys punched, kicked, shoved and tackled one another with their strong, sapling arms.
I couldn’t take it.
“Stop it! Stop it!” I wailed.
No one heard me.
“Boys! Boys, please!”
My world collapsed. Weren’t these my babies? Aren’t they meant to babble, coo, and beg for snacks? How is it they became so violent, muscular, and smelly? I covered my eyes with my hands.
Astonished, they paused the fight and watched their mother groan into her palms.
“Whaaat?” asked my first-born, who is now 12.
“Why,” I whimpered, “Why are you – HURTING each other? What HAPPENED?”
He cocked his head to one side. “Nothin’, Mom. It’s ninja training.”
Ninja training. I hate it.
I leaned against the doorway for support.
“Hey Mom, you’re blocking the bomb exit.”
I schlepped onto the rug, near the twin who had now switched from push-ups to sit-ups.
“Oh NO!” squealed my middle-born child. “Mom’s in the LAVA!”
Four boys sprinted wildly then snatched up their shirts and plastered them onto my face, to extinguish me.
“Get ‘er to safety!”
And then those boys – those squishy cherubs who squirmed out of my body a decade ago and drooled iridescent bubbles from their heavy little faces onto their helpless bodies – they lifted me. Those boys lifted me out of the “lava” and dumped me in the “base.”
And then they, um, beat each other up.
“I’m going psychooooo!” yelled a ninja. He charged his foe and kicked him in the gut. The foe snatched the ninja’s foot and hoisted it. The ninja thudded to the floor, where the pair wrestled bitterly.
I jumped up to help, scouring the nether layers of my brain for first aid techniques.
“It’s OK boys, I’m right here – “
But when I got to that brutal nucleus, their laughter reached me.
Locked in each other’s arms and smudged with fresh bruises on the hard floor of this lava-ringed battle zone, my babies grew, into something more like men – and laughed about it.